Dearest Michael,
It seems apropos on the week before Rosh Hashanah to deliver to your future kitchen Grandma Belle’s Brisket recipe. I never really felt like I made it as great as she did, but it is surely a wonderful memory response as soon as the first smell of it baking in the oven seeps out into our kitchen. I think it will be this way for you too.
Grandma, your great grandmother who you were so fortunate to know, was famous for making her food ahead of time and freezing it to save time. I guess there is some wisdom to this after having to be the head chef in your own kitchen for over seventy five years. Being married to Grandpa was different then your life experience for sure as Grandpa Herbie’s culinary skills were limited to getting his morning bowl of cereal and pouring the milk. This was never the scenario in your home when Dad and I were married. Dad was and still is a vigorous cook and often my dinners can’t compete with his robust attempts at recipes that would never cross my kitchen threshold. Bacon and hamburger macaroni and cheese for example, I can see the draw for a young hormonal teenager now on his way to full blow twenties. My coconut oil roasted salmon and lightly dressed arugula salad is no match and I am ok with this. I love that you share a cooking bond with both of us together and apart and your love of kitchen and confidence is one of our many proud outcomes of your young life.
Brisket can be finicky. I have bought the most expensive ones at high end meat counters and have been disappointed by their lack of tenderness at the end of its long journey in the oven. I have bought cheaper cuts because I didn’t have the time to drive to a Kosher meat market and pick one up before the holidays and been wildly surprised. The thing about brisket is patience. Like gardening, the less you are consumed about outcome, the better your plants will be. Basil and dahlias this year have taught me this. Stop fretting, cut happily and let the sun and the water do what they do and abundance prevails.
Life is kind of like this too. As you get ready to enter your twentieth year on this beautiful and fortunate planet, life twists and turns in ways that you may be unprepared for. The inner struggles you must have because of your own grandmother’s, my own mother, deciding her life would be better without me in it must be some type of force within you that you have to deal with just because of its existence. I am sorry for this. I can’t fix that and it seems on the surface that you let things roll off of you at a rate that is admirable. I am not sure how this works internally for you; if it does the way you seem, I am in awe of this ability of yours. It is a maturity and blessing to be free of fret. Fretting is something that Grandma Belle did more and more as she got older, but she had a matter of fact pragmatism to her life that was like yours too and I see Grandma and Grandpa’s depression era outlook on life in you.
Grandma Belle had no idea she was BRCA positive. She would have been uniquely curious about this and I wish I could have talked to her more about it if I had known. The potency of this genetic mutation in our family lineup is astounding. The farthest back I can go is to Grandma Belle’s father, Murray, your Great Great Grandfather and down the line it traveled. To you from me, from Grandpa Dave and here we are with the knowledge of not really knowing what to do with it except for the five things that the glorious Dr. Wiggins bestowed upon me when we discussed this.
1. Don’t smoke
2. Don’t drink excessively (mmmm, rugby player, sophomore in college… not sure how to translate the word excessively)
3. Keep fit and eat healthy
4. Keep calm, stress is a major trigger
5. Pay attention to your body, feel a lump, don’t ignore.
This is a great list as a start to life anyway. We are not an alarmist type of family, at least Dad and me anyway, can’t speak for Dad’s side of the family (you know what I mean). We like knowledge and information and do not wallow in the what ifs and might bes. I love that about our family. We march forth.
And in times of trauma and stress, for me anyway, I cook. I bake. As you march ahead in your life, I know that your Uncle Michael’s cancer was caused by many environmental factors you were never exposed to. Your risk of cancer at the tender young age of 23 like Uncle Michael has been taken off the table because of this. Please remember this as you make your way and do not use a positive BRCA as an affirmation for your life but rather as an opportunity to wholly live it instead.
This brisket recipe takes a long time to cook for its most tender outcome. I expect your life to be long and glorious, you are already tender and the sweetness of your essence permeates my heart every time I see your beautiful face.
The ingredients for this are not typical of my usually clean kitchen but there are some recipes you just have to make an exception for.
Beef Brisket (taken out of fridge at least ½ hour before putting in oven) (Whatever size you want, the cooked tender slices of this can be frozen so buy more than you will eat) -I have often made the trip to The Butcherie in Brookline, Mass. not because I keep kosher, but because there is nothing like a tired and true kosher brisket. Plus the wild experience of this market a few days before any major Jewish Holiday is something that should not be missed at least once in your life.
1 bottle of Chili sauce or 1 can of cranberry sauce (the cranberry sauce ingredient was given to me by David from the kosher meat market that no longer exists in Framingham, Mass. It was his mother’s go to ingredient for her brisket. They interchange well. I often went to this market instead of Brookline because I could visit Aunt Kiley and Peggy and Grandma Kitsie at the same time)
1 package of Lipton Onion Soup mix (you must be seeing a pattern by now with this ingredient)
salt, pepper, garlic powder (I never have garlic powder, so I use fresh but the purist in me must give your Grandma Belle’s recipe as is.)
½ cup of water or kosher sweet wine (I just saw a recipe for a can of beer instead and I am guessing this would be super tenderizing, I am also guessing you probably have a can of beer in your fridge so give it a try and let me know)
Preheat oven to 350
Salt and pepper and garlic both sides of the brisket and place in a pan or a ceramic dish that gives you pleasure.
Mix the chili sauce, onion soup mix and whatever liquid you decide together and pour over the brisket.
Cover tightly with foil
Place in preheated oven for thirty minutes then turn oven down to 300 and cook for another 3 hours. After three hours take foil off and cook for another forty five minutes.
Take brisket out and let cool slightly (important step, remember good tender brisket can’t be rushed)
Slice against the grain. It will be like butter, trust me.
Put back in pan in the juice and can be reheated at 275 30 minutes before serving.
Love Mom

grandma belle and grandpa herbie and you blowing out candles on a very funny homemade birthday cake. I expect you to have many more birthdays my love.

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self proclaimed lover of all things beauty, business + lifestyle, I write because it feels good.